STATEMENT: With More Than 4 Million Texans In Poverty, Texas Must Commit To Investing in Education and Career Development

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Center for Public Policy Priorities’ Frances Deviney, senior research associate and Texas KIDS COUNT director, made the following statement about today’s release of the American Community Survey:

“Today’s release of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that nearly 4.56 million (17.9 percent) Texans live in poverty (e.g., $18,480 for a two parent, one child family). While Texas’ overall poverty rate declined slightly from 2011 (18.5 percent), we are still well above our 2008 pre-recession rate of 16.0 percent. 
“The poverty rate gives us a snapshot for the overall health of Texas, and we know living in poverty negatively impacts a young child’s brain and body development, leads to poorer health and education outcomes, and worse employment outcomes as adults. Fortunately, we can do something about it.
“We know that getting a job that pays well and having the ability to move up the economic ladder is the best antidote to Texans falling into or lingering in poverty. Unfortunately, Texas’ poverty rate is driven largely by the job opportunities available to people with little education after high school. In 2012, 69 percent of Texans age 25 and older who lived below the poverty line had a high school degree or less, the fifth highest percentage in the nation. 
“Even though Texas has relatively low unemployment, our workers are much more likely to be working in a job paying minimum wage or less compared to most other states. 
“Investing in primary and adult basic education is one of our most important strategies for reducing the poverty rate and keeping Texas’ economy strong. Unfortunately, our investment in public education and high school completion programs has declined significantly in recent years.
“Texas must also invest more in adult basic education and career development for low-skilled adults. Today, Texas invests an average of $5.78 per adult without a high school diploma/GED for adult basic education and literacy training, compared to $66.20 nationally. These programs are a critical first step to moving low-income Texans into careers that pay family-supporting wages.
“Poverty is not an insurmountable problem. We know what works; we’ve proven it before. 
“In the 1960s, 1 in 3 of our parents and grandparents lived in poverty during their golden years. We decided as a nation that this was unacceptable, so over time we amended the Social Security Act by creating Supplemental Security Income to further stabilize their finances and Medicare to improve health care access and moderating health expenses. Today, the poverty rate for Texans over 65 is down to nearly 1 in 9, or one-third of where it was more than forty years ago.
“It’s time for Texas and the U.S. to decide that our current poverty rates are unacceptable and commit to solutions that we know make a real difference.”
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